Poetic Justice

13 July, 2018 in Reviews

A review of TAHA bMonique Grbec.

 

TAHA: the ten minute standing ovation resounds as I recall the extraordinary experience of last night’s opening night at the State Theatre, Melbourne. Written and poetically performed by Amer Hlehel the show follows Taha Muhammad Ali’s journey from birth to becoming a world renowned poet. A gripping story that fulfils every hope and promise of the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Big World, Up Close series, this show is enormous in scope and intensely intimate in detail.

 

Directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi, Ashraf Hanna’s sparse set design of one square mat, one bench seat and one satchel briefcase gives the one grand man, Hlehel, exactly the minimal canvas he needs to paint the masterpiece that is his performance in this show. Likewise, Habib Shehadeh Hanna’s cinematic soundtrack sweeps through and supports Hlehel’s grandeur with the subtle brilliance of brushstrokes. Truly illuminating is Muaz Jabeh’s shadow cast. The light and darkness full of emotion, when Taha’s village is bombed a silent silhouette blasts tall against the wall and transports us. Thunderstruck, how can a person recover when everything is taken?

 

‘All my life nothing came easy’ introduces the gripping story that starts from a Palestinian village life steeped in a patriarchal culture. From Taha’s entrepreneurial childhood and the bombing of his village, we are taken as fellow refugees to a Lebanese refugee camp, and finally to a newly named homeland and urban life. Taha’s resilience is challenged over and over and I continually marvel at how different my Australian life has been. Even so, the statement ‘all my life nothing came easy’ pulsates, reverberates through my being and I think of terra nullius and the theft of our Country. It is through the recitation of Revenge, one of Taha’s most poignant poems, that I feel reconciled and totally enthusiastic about seeing the next two works in the Big World, Up Close series. Bravo Arts Centre Melbourne – it is through initiatives like this that we learn and we grow as individuals, members of communities and participants in this time and place. Bravo, I can’t wait to see the powerhouse of music trailblazer Mojo Jujo Native Tongue and the #RhodesMustFall The Fall from South African student revolutionaries.

 

Revenge
At times … I wish
I could meet in a duel
the man who killed my father
and razed our home,
expelling me
into
a narrow country.
And if he killed me,
I’d rest at last,
and if I were ready—
I would take my revenge!

*

But if it came to light,
when my rival appeared,
that he had a mother
waiting for him,
or a father who’d put
his right hand over
the heart’s place in his chest
whenever his son was late
even by just a quarter-hour
for a meeting they’d set—
then I would not kill him,
even if I could.

*

Likewise … I
would not murder him
if it were soon made clear
that he had a brother or sisters
who loved him and constantly longed to see him.
Or if he had a wife to greet him
and children who
couldn’t bear his absence
and whom his gifts would thrill.
Or if he had
friends or companions,
neighbours he knew
or allies from prison
or a hospital room,
or classmates from his school…
asking about him
and sending him regards.

*

But if he turned
out to be on his own—
cut off like a branch from a tree—
without a mother or father,
with neither a brother nor sister,
wifeless, without a child,
and without kin or neighbours or friends,
colleagues or companions,
then I’d add not a thing to his pain
within that aloneness—
not the torment of death,
and not the sorrow of passing away.
Instead I’d be content
to ignore him when I passed him by
on the street—as I
convinced myself
that paying him no attention
in itself was a kind of revenge.

– Nazareth
April 15, 2006

 

 

TAHA at Arts Centre Melbourne, 10 July – 14 July, 2018.
Photo: Saheer Oubaid.

#BLAK CRITICS #Monique Grbec

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